Digital is efficient, but often my preference is for the physical: books made of paper, fabric you can touch and playing cards that help you plan a pollinator garden. Deal me in! The Pollinator Garden Planning Deck is a new tool for deciding which plants will work best in your garden and provide the food, shelter and nesting sites pollinators need. The deck will be on sale in February 2024 but you can preorder now.
When I received a deck as a sample, I wasn’t sure how I would use it. The cards are bigger than playing cards, with a closeup of the plant on the one side and information about the plant’s needs and characteristics on the other. As I shuffled through the deck, I could see that it would allow you to plan a pollinator garden visually, both in space (plant size, zone, color, soil needs) and in time (bloom, seeding).
Shuffling the Deck
Just for fun, I went through the 109 cards in the deck to see how many pollinator plants I already have. We moved to a townhouse in 2022 and the plants here aren’t really mine yet, so I used the cards to count how many pollinator plants I had in my prior garden. I was thrilled to discover I had 31 species and dozens of individual plants on less than a quarter acre. You don’t need a lot of space to plant a pollinator garden.
My current space is tricky: It’s very small, there is an HOA involved and a lot of the garden faces north. So I went through the deck looking for pollinator plants that grew well in shade — not part shade but full-on shade. A dozen plants met the shade criteria, some of which were old favorites, such as wild geranium and big-leaf aster, and others were surprises, such as black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), which will be perfect in parts of this garden. It’s a plant I would not have thought of on my own. Another pass through the deck brought up more suggestions for the sunnier parts of the landscape.
Pollinator Garden Planning
How could you use the deck for pollinator garden planning? A few suggestions:
- See what you already have — do a count like I did and figure out where you could add more plants.
- See which plants will be blooming when and how they will blend together. Not enough blooming in spring or fall? Check the pollinator garden planning deck for options.
- Find plants just for your zone — the deck includes many options for zone 3!
- Look for plants that provide food, shelter or larval habitat for your favorite pollinators. For instance, anise hyssop hosts nine genera of native bees as well as hummingbirds and painted lady butterflies. The cards give you information on which species each plant helps most.
- Use the deck for inspiration!
- Use the deck to help identify what you have. Yes, there are apps for that and iPhones do a better than fair job of plant ID, but none of them are perfect.
Besides these pollinator garden planning uses, the cards would be great for education and fun. I can see an older child using the cards to learn plant names and understand some of the science behind pollinator gardening.
The deck is the work of Cathy, Michael and Jenny Katz. Cathy and Michael Katz are owners of That’s A Plenty Farm, a pollinator habitat and pollinator plant nursery in Massachusetts. It’s worth noting that the deck covers pollinator plants — not native plants. Herbs, such as borage, dill and parsley, and annuals, such as zinnias and Mexican sunflower, are included. If you wanted to grow only native plants, check out my review of Benjamin Vogt’s Prairie Up, or a local guide to native plants. Many in the deck are native to the Upper Midwest, but not all.